Rotterdam Beats was in town a few weeks ago and one of their headliners was Austrian composer, producer and keyboard mastermind Dorian Concept. He’s easily one of our favorite musicians around, so when he passed through town we grabbed the opportunity to get to know him a bit better. Read along and get familiar with Dorian Concept!
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I go by the name of Dorian Concept. My passport says Oliver Johnson because I’m a Viennese-born (Vienna, Austria), half-American guy. I got into music through classical piano training. I then got into jazz, through hip-hop and the sample culture actually. I’m just a musician trying to combine these things I just mentioned.
Is this your first time in the Netherlands, Rotterdam?
It’s the second time I’m in Rotterdam this year actually. I was here earlier for the North Sea jazz Festival, playing together with Jameszoo who’s a good friend of mine too. A few years ago, I was already at BIRD for Strange Fruit. They were the first to book me in the Netherlands. They got me over twice. Those are the homies.
You talked about jazz, the sample culture; where do you actually draw your inspiration from?
Mainly instrumental music I’d say. In hip-hop for example, I’ve always been more interested in the production side; the same goes for jazz music with the improvisational aspect of it, classical music, experimental electronic music and even film music. So a very broad range of influences and styles.
'Sometimes it takes a crazy person to make beautiful music.'
What’s the story behind your stage name?
When I was 15 or 16 years old, I was practicing the Dorian Mode (a musical scale of minor notes). At the same time, I was finishing this track for a compilation I was contributing to and for which I needed an artist name; there was also peer pressure for me to choose one. I had a file named “DorianConcept.wav” saved on my computer and I liked the way it read, the phonetic of it. Now it’s kind of a tribute to where I was at that time you know, studying, teaching myself jazz music and going through musical scales.
Do you have any musical heroes, or simply people you look up to?
I’ve had the opportunity to meet people whose music I admire and sometimes it’s better to just admire the music and not the people behind it. So I try not to get too caught up in that you know, because sometimes it takes a crazy person to make beautiful music. On the other hand, there are some people I didn’t have the chance to meet, like John Coltrane, who passed away decades ago. But just from the spiritual concept of his music, especially his modal phase (modal jazz), I guess this would describe the sound quality of a hero to me.
Any moments in your musical career you’d define as highlights or milestones?
I was playing with the Cinematic Orchestra when I was 16. They invited me and I was able to perform at the Royal Albert Hall and Barbican Centre in London. 2 years ago, I was also featured on their “In Motion” EP and it was kind of a cycle that closed for me.
Can you name 3 tracks or songs that changed your life?
One is this track by the Future Loop Foundation called ‘Coming Down’. It was on this weird, downbeat Ambient compilation called ‘Summer Night Sessions‘. That one just kind of got me to start playing the keyboards I think. The second one might be ‘Port Rhombus’ by Squarepusher, because it was that odd combination of virtuose instrumentalists doing electronic music. The third track would be EPMD’s “The Joint” which was my first hip-hop track.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I took on to cooking. I’m not that good yet but it’s a thing I want to get better at, just because it’s such a Zen thing to do you know. It’s very similar to making music too. Something I’ve always done and very little people know about is drawing: I did the cover art of my last record. I can spend 2 days on 3 centimeters of paper… I guess I see that as a hidden talent but I’ve never had anyone judge that, not as much as my music at least.
Would you like to tell us about your future plans and projects?
We’re going to be on tour until December. Next year, probably try to do a follow-up EP with a couple of remixes and do some festivals in the summer.
If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
To be able to travel through time, just because I’m so obsessed with history; and as I mentioned before, if I could see a Coltrane concert, I’d die happy.
Who do you advise Los Bangeles interview next?
The two musicians who were on stage with me tonight: Cid Rim and The cloniOUs. Both amazing producers, both from Vienna. We grew up together and I wouldn’t be the same, musically speaking, if it wasn’t for them.